Rides 9/26: postage stamp

This will be the last post for the next two weeks. I'm going on holiday. See you all in October 13!

To celebrate my time off of work, I decided to take the long way home. I ambled along the Capital Crescent Trail and then followed the Potomac past the Lincoln Memorial and down Ohio Drive and decided to take a celebratory lap around Hains Point, leaving thereafter to continue along the Eastern Branch on the permanently-interim Anacostia Riverwalk Trail along Water Street and past Fort McNair and then past the baseball stadium, from where streams of cyclists flowed after the day game of the double-header. Yards Park gave way to the Navy Yard Riverwalk and from there I turned inland, riding up 11th, north and east on Potomac to 16th and then home.

There's something special about a Friday afternoon commute and even more so when it's once before two weeks off. I like that you can take an extra 20 minutes on the ride home and for this minimal investment in time, you yield massive returns in good feeling. I highly recommend it.

In the morning, I rode through the city and it seemed quiet and empty. There wasn't much traffic along Wisconsin, though enough for a driver to honk at me for not going as soon as the light turned green. From M to Calvert, you might wish to know, a stretch that's all uphill, it's possible to go as fast as someone driver a car (and much faster when the traffic is less sparse). I beat the honker at the line right as we crossed Calvert and I felt pretty damn good about it. Take that, honker. (I don't think he cared or probably even noticed. Most drivers that you 'race' with don't even know you're racing. That's probably for the best, for a lot of reasons.)


Rides 9/25: Style Icon

This morning it was raining. There were few cyclists. It felt like fall. It is fall. There were also fewer runners. There even seemed to be fewer cars on the road. Where was everyone? Where were you? Was everyone on the bus? Was there some kind of bus party and everyone was invited except me? Did the bus party have seven layer dip? Oh man. You all had seven layer dip and I was out riding in the rain. If this bus party had Bugles, I'll never be ok with my having missed it. Never. Catered bus parties are the best, even if they're not a real thing. Yet. 

I rode a bike without fenders. I have become the cyclist that I used to chide. Was I wrong then or am I wrong now? Or both? I got wet, but I was going to get wet anyway. Actually, much of the reason I rode the bike without fenders in the rain was to cleaning the accumulated dirt from the previous few days' rides. I'm so clever. 

I'm going to miss warm weather, but mostly because I'm going to miss open car windows and the radio sounds eminating through them. The ambience. The atmospherics. Listening first and then looking in to have your suspicions about the occupant confirmed or totally up-ended. I don't think drivers think of themselves as scenery (people, regardless of mode, tend not to), but their car radios provide a sonic backdrop that I have come to miss when it gets colder and the windows are rolled up. Then you just hear the low guttural chug of the engines. And the piercing honks. And there's nothing that distracts or up-ends. And you need to guess if the burly man inside is rocking out to AC/DC or Katy Perry and from which chuckle bunch morning show exactly the guffaws are prompted. The mystery is somehow less satisfying. 

I rode home through Glover and Georgetown and across M Street to L Street and then across town thataway. A big truck was parked next to, but not blocking, the cycletrack and that constitutes a victory. It really does. Make of that what you will. Narrower lanes work! (Sort of!) 


Rides 9/23 & 9/24: the bike commutes I did on those days

For a few years, I rode a Surly Cross Check to work and if you asked me what kind of bike you should buy if you didn't have a bike and wanted a bike that you could ride to work and/or also do pretty much anything else with, I'd say to you 'why are you asking me? and why are you hiding in the bushes outside of my house?' but then before going back inside and phoning the authorities I'd say 'buy a Surly Cross Check because it's the kind of bike that you can ride to work and/or also pretty much do anything else with it' because I'm a polite person who answers questions, even when asked from the bushes, and also because it's my genuine and true opinion. I've had the pleasure of riding the Cross Check again for the past few days and I've taken it on the C & O Canal path and it's been a blast. I've temporarily removed the fenders and put on knobbier tires and I'm having an altogether wonderful time pretend I'm riding fast and with verve and adventuresomely, none of which is true, but in any case, at the end of the day, the thin chalky patina of kicked up dirt that clings to the black frame serves to belie the truth, allowing me to substitute my preferred, false version of 'extreme' off-road riding for the more banal truth of plodding along a glorified dirt path most frequented by the senior citizens  Ward 3 and their walking sticks and Irish Setters.

Normally when I ride this way, I end up taking a certain road up a certain hill and I can get to work with minimal incident because the hill that way isn't so bad. Yesterday, I tried a different road from normal and today I tried a different road from that because you start doing things to spice things up when you've bike commuted a long time in mild acts of rebellion against monotony and repetition. Lowell Street (no, not the Lowell Street by the Cathedral and not the Lowell Street in Wesley Heights, but the one over in the Palisades, between MacArthur and Loughboro) is a nasty stinger of a hill that was far more than I wanted, but these are the costs you pay when you decide to mix things up. Don't ride Lowell Street. Actually, strike that. Ride Lowell Street. Ride every hill. Just go up every hill once. Just to remind hills who's the boss. Oh man, now I'm thinking of a The Hills/Who's the Boss anachronistic crossover episode and I can't help but wonder if Mona would've steered Heidi clear of Spencer, but we'll never know because 1) those shows didn't have a crossover episode because they were on at different times and 2) one of those shows was totally fictional. The other starred Judith Light.

Oh, I'm going to interrupt whatever the hell that just was to wish a L'shana Tovah to any and all Jewish readers! Thanks for reading!

Yesterday on the way home, under the Whitehurst Freetway, I saw Chris and we chatted for a little bit. We also noticed that there was a police officer standing at the corner and he looked like he might be there to give tickets to bicyclists who declined to stop at the stop sign. There were many bicyclists who declined to stop at the stop sign and while I didn't see him issue any tickets, apparently he did after I left and that's the story about how declining to stop at stop signs directly in front of a police officer might get you a $25 ticket. Now, I'm not necessarily of the opinion that cyclists failing to stop and stop signs necessarily creates a clear and present danger and obviously a cyclist not following traffic laws (per physics) is objectively less dangerous than a driving doing so, though that doesn't mean it is entirely without consequence where there to be a collision. And secondly, I don't necessarily think it's the best use of police resources to deploy an officer to ticket bicyclists. But, with these caveats asides, I think I can safely safe that I've probably seen thousands of cyclists decline to stop at tens of thousands of stop signs and decline to stop at red lights and I think out of all of these people, I've seen one get a ticket. Because she did it directly in front of a police officer. So, in conclusion, even if you think it's really dumb for police to be ticketing bicyclists and even if you think that the idea of cyclists having to stop at stop signs is really dumb and even if you think OMG DRIVERS ARE SO MUCH MORE DANGEROUS AND YOU'RE NOT DOING ANYTHING ABOUT THIS (fun fact: Chris and I heard a cyclist scream as she stopped short to avoid a driver who pulled out of the parking garage without looking. He was not ticketed), if you don't want to risk getting a $25 ticket, you probably shouldn't decline to stop at a stop sign directly in front of a police officer.

I guess they're selling Sting tickets somewhere around here?
Today I rode Pennsylvania Avenue past the double-fenced White House to G Street and then eventually to the C & O. On the way home, I rode down Massachusetts to Q Street to 7th to E and eventually near and around Union Station to the Hill and then home. It started to rain on the way home and this was comeuppance for my fenderless lifestyle.


Rides 9/22: Quinine with lime

I wrote a long thing at lunch (you can read it) and it's unlikely that I have enough good word arrows left in my word quiver (for example, see the phrase "word arrows left in my word quiver") to make this post anything other than a truncation, so here it goes: 

I rode, both to and from work, on the C & O towpath, which is unpaved. It looked like this: 

I think I've commuted on the C & O fewer than a dozen times in the years I've been riding to work and it remains a novel experience. It was pretty fun, but I definitely understand why humankind invented paving. 'Twas bumpy. Maybe that's the allure. 

I thought I could take the canal towpath to the Chain Bridge and scamper up through the woods to the Capital a Crescent Trail, but when met with this

I declined to scamper. This might actually be the overgrown path, which I assumed it was, and instead might just be what we like to call "woods" and maybe there was a clearer path a few dozen yards down the road, but I gave up and returned to the trail rather than searching for it and that's the story of how I wasn't eaten by a Sasquatch. 

I took the C & O on the way home to Warer Street to Rock Creek to Ohio Drive and then over the Francis Case Bridge (what was the Francis Case? Was it a lawsuit about stigmata?) and down to G Street to eventually a different grocery store than the one I normally go. Thereafter it was I Street SE into where that stops and eventually over and up the hill and wended home, free and clear and with groceries to turn into dinner. 

Mr. President: it's time to move

A man climbed over a fence and the Secret Service caught him and no actual harm came to anyone and that man will now go to jail for a very long time. But, because of this and because of the 'never can be too safe' zeigeist, the Secret Service is considering a plan to set up security checkpoints blocks from the White House to ensure that tourists and visitors and whoever else might come close enough to eventually jump over a fence doesn't have any weapons or explosives. It it unclear whether the Secret Service will set up a rock wall to test the climbing and scampering abilities of those who wish to enter or whether that assessment will be done merely through visual means. I have, almost daily, for the past few years ridden my bicycle through the White House grounds (the 15th Street cycletrack actually directs its users along Pennsylvania Avenue and past Lafayette Park), and almost weekly, on Fridays, ridden my bike in front of the White House to get to Friday Coffee Club at 17th and G. It's a rather neat experience riding by early in the morning when there aren't too many tourists about and I'd be lying if I told you I haven't ever stopped on occasion to take a glamour shot of my bicycle leaned against the fence, White House in the background, in a sort of triumphal 'isn't it so cool I get to ride my bike in Washington, DC?' self-aggrandizing-by-association sort of way. There are many more people than me who use this bike route with as much or more frequency than I do and I think we'd all miss it were we diverted. I can't speak for other members of #bikeDC, but I probably wouldn't want to have my panniers searched daily by the Secret Service because it would be inconvenient and slowing and I'd also worry that they'd cast judgment on my lunch. "Funyuns again? Seriously?" There'd be other ways to get around the area, but not too many good ones, but life would go on and bicyclists, who for the most part are nearly always asked to make compromises to their preferred route in the name of their own safety, would now be asked to make compromises to their route in the name of someone else's safety, namely that of the President of the United States of America.

But I'm not sure how fair this is and I think it's time to really consider whether the current location of the Executive Mansion is one that's conducive to a world in which the threats to it are so multifarious and the fence climbing abilities of men far exceed what they once were, thanks to modern fence climbing techniques and the widespread diffusion of superior fence climbing technology. In short, it's time for the President to move.

While the President has historically resided in and worked from the White House, we live in uncertain times and traditional approaches are no longer appropriate to modern threats. The urban setting of the White House keeps the President far too close to far too many people about whom we know far too little. Are they spry? Do they have mad hops? What of their wrist strength and ability to hoist their legs over wrought-iron? We simply don't know. In addition, the White House is a tantalizing target for those who have evil intentions and the potential collateral damage to civilians is great. Rather than make the White House a fortress and impose more invasive security measures farther and farther away from its entrance, the President can make himself, his family, his key government officials and all of us safer by decamping to a more secure location.

This secure location can be built somewhere much safer. Maybe inside of a mountain or in the middle of a desert surrounded by rattlesnakes. It's been nice having the President in Washington DC, but mordern technologies obviate the need for him to be here. Surely he has Skype. It's not like it's olden times and he's parking his horse outside the Capitol for the State of the Union. Physical proximity is wholly unnecessary. Nostalgia alone cannot be reason to justify staying put. It's not 1820 anymore. Times change and we need to change with them.

But what of the building itself? I say we make it a museum. We can keep whatever fancy stuff the President doesn't want in the super-secure White House 2.0 and open it to tourists with the same level of perfunctory bag checks as at any Smithsonian branch. I doubt that visitors would mind that the President technically no longer lives there. I mean, it's not like they're bumping it him on the tour. They're there to see the historic building where a bunch of things from history related to liberty and democracy and freedom happened but can no longer happen because it's not safe for anyone for those things to keep happening there. It'll be like going to Hearst Castle or Newport, but with a more patriotic flair. Heck, you could still keep it really nice and if the President wanted to hold a State Dinner or something, he could use it for the night (they could probably keep some of the fancy china there so they don't need to schlep it back and forth from White House 2.0. I'd hate to see it break in transport and the budgetary implications of spending all that money on bubble-wrap would not be insignificant).

While it would be expensive to build White House 2.0 (hollowing out mountains isn't cheap, to say nothing of the escalating costs of rattlesnakes), we can put no price on safety. So long as the President continues to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it will remain fraught, both for him and for us. If the post-9/11 experience has taught Washington, DC anything, it's that the needs of the modern security state are incompatible with the needs of good urbanism and and open and free society. The residents of and visitors to the District of Columbia have, out of a commitment to tradition and also because they've to this point had no say in the matter, continued to abide by the government's attempts at the former while allowing the latter to continue to erode. Rather than one more compromise, one more checkpoint, one more metal detector, one more body scanner in a city that has been asked to function around it, the President needs to do the unselfish thing and move away. We'd miss you, but it'd be for the best.


Drives 9/19: I drove

Normally, if I consider myself well enough to go into work, I consider myself well enough to bike there. In fact, the reverse is more or less how I determine whether or not I should go in: if I'm not well enough to bike, then I'm certainly not well enough to work. But on Friday, for whatever, I felt like I needed to be at the office for much of the day, but didn't think that bike commuting would work in my best interest. I stood at the cusp of no longer being sick and worried that the additional exertion wouldn't facilitate thwarting the microscopic hobgoblins that rendered me low the day before and faced with this, I elected to leave the bike aside and take the car into work. It was fine.

I've driven to work before, but I'm not in the habit of doing it, nor especially familiar with the 'best' routes that will get me there with the least traffic. I took Constitution to Pennsylvania (where I would normally bike) to 15th (where I normally bike) to M Street (where I normally bike) to 22nd street (where I don't normally bike) to Massachusetts (where I used to bike, but don't as much anymore). The whole thing took me, I'd guess, around 35 minutes, which is about 10-15 minutes faster than the bike ride. I parked the car. It cost me $12. I didn't have to shower or change my clothes (I don't have specialist driving attire, but I'm admittedly a noob, so maybe I should read some Car and Driver and figure out what gear will make me look like the pros) and I think for me that's the biggest time-saver. I could take or leave the 10 minutes saved in driving over biking- one stalled car or slightly more congestion on the roads (it was Friday, whatever that means) would erase that- but the not having to get ready for work and instead just getting to work was what I considered to be a pretty big advantage. If I could ride to work in my work clothes and arrive in such a way that I was presentable, then yeah, that'd be better. But, alas.

I drove him via Massachusetts and Rock Creek Parkway, a road that's through a park and four lanes wide and altogether totally wrong for a city. Not that anyone ever would, because zoom zoom cars, but making the part that's four lanes wide into a part that's two lanes wide and turning some of that space into a dedicated bicycle facility, thereby freeing up the sidepath for the many runners who use it, would change the dynamics of the space in a really positive way. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CARS? WHERE WOULD THE CARS GO? THEY'D CLOG THE STREETS. WE CAN'T DO IT BECAUSE OF THE CARS. This whole line of argumentation depresses me and not necessarily because it's inaccurate. But this is the story of roads in the urban context these days. Can't try to make things better anywhere because it might make things worse elsewhere. I'm a little tired of being held hostage by the status quo. But such as life, I guess.

I followed the RCP to Independence to the highway to 11th street to Potomac Avenue to Kentucky to the grocery store and then home. There was some traffic, but I don't remember hating life because of it.

I don't think I'm converted over to car commuting. There were certainly things I liked about it- I listened to some podcasts, something I don't do while riding, and I felt like I benefited from the rest- but it wasn't life-changingly amazing. I think if I worked even closer and a few fewer hills away, the allure of car commuting would be even less. This map, which compares the relative time of walking vs. biking vs. transit vs. driving, more or less agrees, so that's good. But speed, while a major factor, certainly isn't the only one by which people can (and should) make commuting decisions and I think it's a mistake to assume that it is. 10 minutes faster, but at what cost? Anyway.


No Rides 9/18: I was sick

I didn't go into work today because I didn't feel very well (lingering cold), so there were no bicycle commutes. I'd like to think that this made more room in the bike lanes for non-sick people, so I hope you all enjoyed that. I hope to once again be taking up space in the bike lanes tomorrow.

Rides 9/17: Epidemic

Obviously this is a bike commuting blog, but it's mostly a blog about the latest technological gadgets and this means it would be irresponsible to fail to address the implications on the transportation landscape of the widespread adoption of smartwatches. Will smartwatches lessen the likelihood of distracted driving? Probably not, though maybe instead of holding their phones, drivers will instead flip their watches to the inside of their wrist, thereby being able to take their eyes of the road without having to take their hands off the steering wheel. That is, of course, until they have to touch the watch for some reason and then both hands might come off the wheel, whereas with a phone, many people can currently type one handed. In conclusion, it's hard for me to see the addition of another screen lessening the likelihood of distracted driving. Though, since recently I saw a lady driving while reading the newspaper, I suppose this is hardly a digital-only problem.

How will smartwatches impact bicycling? I don't know. Something something Strava? Maybe a watch that buzzes to alert you of when to turn would be useful. I guess not having to bring your phone with you would be a potential benefit. Think of the weight savings!

Along the Mall in the morning and then up Wisconsin to Calvert and down Tunlaw to New Mexico. At Calvert and Wisconsin, there were some Bowser supporters waiving signs. Unlike the Catania folks from a few weeks ago, they did not offer me some banal support for my hill climbing. What can we extrapolate from that regarding the candidate's position on bicycles? Um, nothing? FUN FACT: I once met CM Bowser at a Bike to Work Day. I found the interaction to be painfully awkward, but, in general, I find all my interactions with people to be painfully awkward, so I'm not going to hang that on her. Anyway, there's a mayoral debate tonight. I hope the candidates are asked some tough questions about transportation, such as what color Lincoln Navigator they plan to park in bike lanes. You know, really grill them.

I rode through the city on the way home and took the usual route down Massachusetts to 21st to L Street to 15th. Not much to report except that I was honked at (which is relatively rare) and that's funny because I wrote in this week's Gear Prudence about drivers "helpfully" honking. This wasn't so much helping as telling me to move over. I moved over. This happened in the stretch of parking lot/road on Pennsylvania between 3rd Street and Peace Circle, which is maybe the block of DC I hate most of all. Is it a street? Is it a parking lot? Is it a restricted parking lot? Why does everyone need to back into spots on the diagonal? Have you seen people try to do this? They're really not great at it. There are a bunch of streets around the Capitol that are, even more the usual streets, parking lots that people are allowed to drive through. I think it's awful, both in terms of usability and aesthetics, but when it comes to the latter, we're supposed to pretend that thin overhead streetcar wires are offensive to our sensibilities but that late 90s Toyota Corollas might as well be chiseled by Daniel Chester French and purposefully integrated into the landscape of the District by Frederick Law Olmstead. It's a very strange double standard. Anyway, #waroncars.


Rides 9/16: Mystery Machine

Gonna make this short as I'm currently battling allergies/a cold and I'll need to give my undivided attention to not feeling well. I'd hate to get distracted from self-pity. (Wait, is that a reference to being sick or bike commute blogging? Um.) 

- If I ever had doubts about the Ogre, which I never did, I still don't. Every plodding commute is a joy. It's brilliant.

- not to #slatepitch, but I kind of love CityCenter. I love how it looks. I love how preposterous and luxe it wants to be. I love how it doesn't exactly fit in with its surroundings. It just makes me smile. (Have I mentioned I've taken some cold medicine?) Anyway, there are a lot of worse things you could do with Qatari money. 

- saw a bicycle cop Cat 6 the crap out of some commuters on M. He crushed it. 

- still car traffic in Glover Park in the morning, even after they restored the three lanes each way. I think it's time to admit the re-re-configuration has failed before it starts hurting the local businesses who demanded it. I'll wait patiently for neighborhood curmudgeons to complain, much as they did when the two-lane conversion "failed." Waiting patiently [checks watch]. 

- saw a guy with bike shoes on, but brown flip flops tucked into his belt at the back of his pants. Bro so hard. Also saw a pedicabber swerve at some Segway riders on Pennsylvania while screaming "THIS ISN'T A SEGWAY LANE." I think he was joking, but I'm not totally sure. I don't know how fraught the relationship between these groups are. We could have a Jets-Sharks thing going on and I'd hate for the peace and quiet and open air to be marred by awkward rolling rumbles. 

- on the way home, I saw three people I know. Tried to go for a roll-by high five with one, but it didn't work. The world just isn't ready for it. 

- Kids on bikes everywhere. Just everywhere. Hard not to blame the Kidical Mass movement. Thanks for ruining biking for us hardcore avid cyclists. Thanks a lot. More longtails than a brontosaurus convention. ["boooooo!," says the imaginary crowd in my head that hates lame dinosaur jokes.] Apropos of this and of other things, it's worth remembering that before you were an experienced cyclist, you were an inexperienced one. Be kind. 


Rides 9/10 and Ride In 9/11: Moose

It's the time of the year that's on the eve of the time of the year when I start getting ragey about bicyclists not using lights at night. So, get excited for that. As always, this offer stands: if you do not own lights for your bike and cannot afford lights for your bike, I will buy you lights for your bike. Please email talesfromthesharrows@gmail.com. I am willing to put my money where my soon-to-be ragey mouth is. Lights are too important to not have.

I remember the ride in yesterday as uneventful. It was a straight shot along the Mall and when you catch the lights, you can really make a go of it. Of course, this means something like sustained pedaling for more than a block and that's utterly exhausting.

I went up Wisconsin in the morning and came down it in the evening. There's a mildly thrilling view from Book Hill of the Kennedy Center and the world beyond that always makes me happy. The conditions on the road for bicyclists are suboptimal and I would recommend that 9 out of 10 times you take the better bike routes through residential Georgetown instead of along the commercial strip. But 1 out of 10 times, I recommend the other way around. Of course, my advice being what it is, you should ignore it and do what you want.

I rode through Washington Circle, which is designed to ensure that all passers-through are obligated to stop and pay due deference to George Washington and his statue. It's not just a traffic mess. It's deliberate. Yes, sure. It's another place best (and rather easily) avoided by bicycle. I guess the recurring theme of this ride was 'poor choices,' which itself was an homage to George Washington's time in the French and Indian War (which was an important 18th century military conflagration and not just the world's most lopsided cricket match).

This morning I wasn't much up to riding to work, so I decided to take the Brompton to the metro. Along Massachusetts, I was passed by another bike commuter and I just got bad vibes coming off of him, like he was resentful that I was on a clown bike and wearing normal people clothes and not on a proper bike wearing proper bicycling clothes. I'm relatively confident that I'm making this up, but do you ever occasionally just get a feeling that other bike commuters are judging you? I get this feeling all of the time and not just because they hold up score cards as they ride by. Judge not, lest ye be judged and all that. There's no wrong way to bike commute (except by driving, which is the most wrong way to bike commute) and it seems foolish to mistake the paltriness of the percentage of us who do it regularly as exclusivity.

At my Metro destination, the escalator was broken so I ended up carrying the folded bike up one of the longer escalators in the system. I did make it to the top eventually, but for a while, I thought I was never going to make it and would have to live permanently underground and aspired to become the 37th most popular mole-person blogger in DC. Good thing I made it. The ride down Nebraska wasn't terrible. One close-ish pass.

I won't be riding to work or blogging on Friday or Monday (please don't cry), so see you Tuesday. But before I peace out, here's some info about a Kidical Massing event that you might want to know:

There are those times in life when two forces rocket towards each other, only to meet in the middle with an incredible explosion of AWESOME CUTENESS and CUPCAKES. On Sunday, September 14th, the incredible adorability of Kidical Mass Arlington will cross the bridge and join forces with the amazing delightfulness of Kidical Mass DC to ... circle the Washington Monument. And eat cupcakes. It will be awesome.

When: Sunday, September 14, 10:00am (roll out 10:15am)

Meet & End : LBJ Grove, on the Pentagon side of the wooden bridge (Right by the Columbia Island Marina)

Parking: Either in the Columbia Island Marina / LBJ Memorial parking lot, accessible from the southbound GW Parkway OR in the LBJ Grove Parking lot accessible from Boundary Channel Drive on the Pentagon Reservation.

Route: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/5725066

This ride will be long -- 3+ miles EACH WAY, but it will be awesome, and there will be a break in the middle. We'll meet at Columbia Island Marina at10am, bike across the Memorial Bridge, meet our friends and cupcakes, meet, eat and be merry, then return via the 14th Street Bridge.


Rides 9/9: I rallied

Every morning's the same, but different. Every morning's different, but the same. If this passes as a deep thought, it's likely you've been using spray paint in a confined space. Please crack a window. 

Slightly varied repetition. It's like different bands covering the same song. You know the words and the melody, but there's a freshness in a different timber or in an unexpected lilt or trill. Speaking of music, I'd just like to clarify that I have terrible taste in it. Like, legitimately bad taste. I wish I were kidding, but I genuinely believe that whatever's best is whatever's the most popular right now. How could so many people be wrong simultaneously? Doesn't the law of averages mean that this is impossible? [is there even a law of averages? Thanks, Obama] 

Anyway, the "Shake It Off" of bicycles routes these days is M Street. There was a Metro Access van and a box truck parked in the cycletrack and then there's the part of the sidewalk that's closed where the cycletrack becomes a sidewalk. Swift? Hardly. 

I didn't stop for croissants at any of the places I could've stopped and made it to work without an buttery encumbrance. I can't help but think that was a tactical error. I think we could have a greater bike mode share than Copenhagen if breakfast pastries were tax deductible for bike commuters. Danish? Indeed. 

There seemed to be extra car traffic everywhere on the way home. It's probably has something to do with more people making car trips. Or because DDOT spent all summer narrowing the roads by just one inch every day and only now, after months of this devious prank, has anyone finally realized the net result. I bet it's that and not the whole more cars thing.

On L Street, I saw and rode with Ross, who I've known so long (and haven't seen in forever) that we used to ride a together back when BicycleSpace was on I Street. He's heading out of town again for work (bon voyage!), but it was great to see him and share some of the commute. You just don't get to do stuff like this if you drive to work. I mean, you could, but shouting through open car windows as you dawdle down the highway seems considerably more burdensome. Anyway, among other things, we talked about a fairly crazy sounding bicycle ride from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea and now I have a new life goal: to never ride a bicycle from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea. 

L to 11th (bumpy) to Pennsylvania and up to East Capitol and down Kentucky to the grocery store where both my kale and the reusable mesh produce bag in which it rested were commented upon favorably by the woman working at the checkout (#thistown?). She did not comment on the cake slice I also purchased. 


Rides 9/8: Pull Up Jumper From the Top of the Key

The heat broke and those who didn't ride in the heat were back in action and the streets teemed with cyclists in the way that an early fall day does. I rode along the Mall with many others and a paucity of drivers looking for a shortcut. It sometimes shocks me that there are barely any drivers on Jefferson Drive in the morning, but I guess that Constitution, which parallels it, is speedway-y enough at that time of day. There is a lot of parking along the Mall in the morning, in spite of signs that claim that parking is prohibited until 10AM and I have half a mind to write or call or otherwise badger whatever agency is allegedly responsible for enforcing this dictate that is so clearly unenforced. Park Police maybe? If I had my way, and I don't, cars would be banned from Madison and Jefferson drives (those that buttress the grassy part of the Mall) and only tour buses and pedestrians and cyclists would be allowed through, but clearly this is an awful idea because, um, George Washington drove a Hummer or something? The Mall, a place I ride along now every morning from one end to the other, is a remarkably stolid place and I don't think in a good way. It reminds me of a cemetery. I get the idea of 'grandeur' but I don't know if we wear it especially well. America is, to my mind (or imagination), a too woolly place to be celebrated with boring geometry and even more boring grass. Tuileries whatever.

Rock Creek Park, K Street, Wisconsin Avenue and the whole way up. Lots of car traffic by the British School. I blame all the people driving on the wrong side of the street. something guv'nah something.

Riding home was fine. On Massachusetts, I followed a man on a bike who wore a reflective ankle band around each pant cuff. I think this is fine and all, but what I'm really pining for is hi-viz tattoos. I feel like there's a whole market of bicyclists out there who love tattoos but are meh on visibility at night and could really go for this, to say nothing of all those who would love to wear a hi-viz ankle band but suffer from debilitating velcro allergies. And yet, we lag behind in hi-viz tattoo ink technology. Thanks, Obama.

Dance like nobody's watching
Love like you've never been hurt
Sing like nobody's listening
Drive around bicyclists as if you actually gave a crap about their safety

L Street to 15th to Pennsylvania Avenue. I'd go home a different way but then I'd have to move. I spent some of the trip thinking of some hypothetical Gear Prudence questions I'd write (please write in. Mine weren't very good) and also about other things. Bike commuting, and the not-reading and the not-listening to anything that it provides, is like not wearing socks. You breath a bit. And instead of foot juices that evaporate into the ether, it's day worries. Let loose the foot juices of your mind. Ride a bicycle.


Rides 9/5: Better late than better

"Did I not write this already?" he asked miself, upon remembering that he did not in fact write this already. "Should I try some lame conceit in which I write in the third person and then primarily only about the process of writing the blog post and totally in a way which manages to elide writing the blog post itself?"

"No, that would be terrible," he thought.

Pennsylvania Avenue to coffee and from coffee G Street and I think after that, as far as I can remember, it was upon Wisconsin Avenue until Massachusetts and from there down to work. I like G Street a lot and wish it had a bike lane. There's no reason it shouldn't. "While I do see dead people, I don't see bike lanes"- The Sixth Sense II: the Cat 6th Sense.

It was a different route home because I had a work obligation in Adams Morgan and that took me across Garfield and Cleveland and Calvert. Before that, I rode up Cathedral from New Mexico, I think for the first (and last) time. For one, the street is on an unforgiving hill, made more unforgiving by the lack of bicycle accommodation and the willingness of drivers to also not accommodate bicyclists. And for two, I don't really have a two, but maybe T.S. Eliot does. "Don't cry, don't raise your eye"- Mr. Mistoffelees, in youth.

After my work obligation, I rode down 18th Street on a Friday night and hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. I'm not laughing from funny. I'm laughing because it has sharrows. Replace sharrows with chalk outlines.

I took 18th the whole way downtown to L probably (I can't recall) and eventually made my way home. It was a muggy night. I remember the sweat.


Rides 9/4: Say Yes to Success

First attempt at riding the bike I rode last week on the day I fell down and broke the glass container holding my pasta lunch and again today I brought with me a glass container full of lunch BECAUSE I LEARN NOTHING. Luckily, gravity was on my side (or at least not maliciously against me) and I didn't fall down for the entire trip. Score one for never learning for mistakes. 

FYI: The Bike Rack at 14th and Q opens at 8 AM on weekdays. I mention this because sometimes you need to go to a bike shop earlier in the morning and it's significantly better to go to one that's open than to one where you fruitlessly pound your first on a locked glass door, cursing life and fate and bicycles. I've availed myself of their services a number of times and they're always quite pleasant and pretty quick too. 

[I bring this up because I wrote a thing in WCP this week for their etiquette issue about "how to ride a bike" and it's not just all "put your lips together and blow," but also contains suggestions like supporting your local bike shops. Also, support your local cheesemongers. Ideally, you could support a bike shop that is also a high-end cheese shop, but DC still has some dignity left and this yet isn't a thing.] 

First time on R Street in a long time. Check out this pace line: 

I count 8, then me. Not bad at all. 

Got passed by a woman on a singlespeed riding up Massachesetts and then we both got passed by a guy on an eBike. At the light up the way, the singlespeed rider and I talked about the relative unfairness of this, but we also talked about cyclocross (she races it, I vaguely know what it is) and then we parted ways. Making bike friends is hard, but making bike acquaintances is the best. 

I never think there's much difference in ease/speed between the Ogre and the Cross Check, but there is and I shouldn't be in so much denial about it. It's ok. I notice it the most when riding uphill, which, SPOILER ALERT, is not as trying on the lighter bike. If only they had a Nobel Prize in drawing obvious conclusions. Maybe the bike is lighter because of some kind of boson. You think we could use the Large Hadron Collider as a velodrome in the particle physics off-season? I hope so. 

I took L Street to the end of the L Street cycletrack and worked my way over to K and then up 6th eventually and to Union Market, where there are sandwiches. I biked those sandwiches home, slung over a brake hood, danglingly perilously close to my front wheel, one pothole or sudden turn from a ripped paper bag and meatballs cut into pieces by a cruel turn of the spokes. I live dangerously. 


Rides 9/3: Support your local butcher

Let's keep this brief: 

- rode through downtown to work for the first time in a few weeks. I think I missed the Mall. I miss its quiet. Riding there in the morning evokes the same kind of feeling you get when you show up at a baseball stadium three hours before the game. It's a good feeling. 

- brakes seem a little loose. Might need to bring the bike into the shop or I might just bring the bike close to the shop, reach for the brakes, and end up inside of it. 

- there is a new Gear Prudence. It would be nice if you read it, if you haven't already. Do you have very strong feelings about wearing headphones while riding your bicycle? I really don't have strong feelings one way or the other, but you maybe shouldn't wear them. I like to be able to hear snippets of pedestrian conversations, pedestrian and otherwise. I like to save headphones for times when I want to be closed off from the world; bicycling isn't one of those times. 

- I rode home through Georgetown and stopped at a grocery store to buy wine and babka. Buying wine and babka is the new buying just wine. There's a rip in my pannier and one day, the bottles of wine will fall through the tear and I will find a way to both waste my wine and get a flat tire on the broken glass. I will declare this my apotheosis. 

- DDOT has a terrible idea about banning bikes on _______. It shouldn't really matter where _______ is because in 2014, the idea of banning bikes anywhere is just a bad one. Here's a general rule of thumb: any time your solution to a "bike problem" is "have bicyclists not be there," you're not actually solving anything. You're punting and it's unacceptable. People on bicycles should be able to go from Point A to Point B, not from around Point A to a block from Point B, then walk a little. Anything short of achieving *complete trips solely via bicycle* is not ok. And we shouldn't compromise. 


Rides 9/2: Chirality and Michael Jackson

After my mishap on Friday, I decided to wear regular shoes on the bike today, hoping to somewhat reduce the likelihood of my falling down. I also wore some socks with pictures of bikes on them, hoping to somewhat reduce the likelihood of my forgetting that I rode a bike to work and then taking the bus home. Victory accomplished on both counts. 

I guess the Tuesday after Labor Day is supposed to be the worst traffic day ever, but I didn't much notice any change except for maybe a few more runners running on the running paths. I guess I'm out of touch with the experiences of real commuters. That's what I get for not riding on the highway. Also, congratulations to anyone who managed somehow to successfully not drive recklessly around a child today. I saw many tweets from many public agencies and news organizations suggesting as much, so if you managed to do it, way to go! You are the real heroes. Maybe this is a bit cruel. I really don't mean to disparage anyone advocating safer driving- that's a really great thing to advocate! I guess I'm just not terribly happy that we have to periodically remind people to be careful with their cars so as not to grievously injure vulnerable children. It'd be nice if, I don't know, that was always top of mind. But sadly, it doesn't always seem to be, so let the reminders fly. Trivial or not, if they help, they help. [Ugh. This got kinda serious and maudlin. Sorry!] 

The ride home also happened. It was uneventful. I managed to wait behind other bicyclists at red lights, treating lines like other lines that I encounter in everyday life. I didn't find it especially onerous. I thought about stopping in at a McDonalds, marching to the front of the queue and ordering a cheeseburger, then turning back to all those I passed, unapologetically announcing that "shoaling" is no big deal and that getting cheeseburgers isn't a race and they should just get over it because whatever, but I didn't do that because, after all, we all know that that's something that people are just not supposed to do... because stopping for a cheeseburger on the way home totally ruins dinner. No other reason though. 

15th/Pennsylvania/East Capitol. Sometimes Capitol Hill feels so far away from everywhere else, but I guess that depends on the everywhere else. FUN FACT: The Folger is putting on King Lear. FUN OPINION: King Lear with monkeys, aka King Kong Lear would be an even better play but Shakespare lacked the imagination and/or access to top-flight monkey actors to pull it off.